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Climate Action Projects

The Diocese of London’s Climate Action Projects form part of its strategic Climate Action Programme to address the challenge of energy use and carbon emissions from its buildings.

Introduction

The Church of England has set a target for the whole church of reducing its carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2030.

Climate Action Projects in the Diocese of London aim to contribute to this target.

Climate Action Projects to more than 200 churches in the Diocese have already been undertaken, or are in course of planning or procurement. They may include:

  • Any programme of works for environmental and energy-saving works initiated by a PCC;
  • Such improvements forming part of works for other purposes;
  • Implementation of low-cost actions advised by Environmental Audits;
  • Capital works including micro-generation projects, especially photovoltaic panels.

Projects

Projects for energy-saving, or for sustainability purposes, include those to provide for:

  • Building fabric
  • Lighting and electrics
  • Micro-generation
  • Heating and hot water
  • Renewable heat.

Feasibility studies for pilot projects have now been completed. The first two of these projects, for St Mary Magdalene Paddington and St John-at-Hackney, have now progressed with their capital projects with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and other grant-making bodies.

Priorities

Depending on circumstances, here is a likely pecking order for improvements:

Zero cost

  • Smart metering
  • Energy management and awareness raising.

Low cost

  • Changing the lightbulbs to low energy models
  • Boiler replacements
  • Improved lighting and heating controls – radiator thermostats, timers etc.

Medium cost

  • Draught proofing
  • Insulation.

High cost (capital investment)

  • Window replacement or glazing improvements
  • New lighting and heating systems
  • Renewable energy – especially photovoltaics (solar panels), heat pumps or biomass heating.

Parameters

Some projects, such as replacing lighting or heating, may not be viable until an existing system has reached the end of its life.

Also it’s wise to consider whether the project is:

  • Short/Medium/Long term?
  • One-off/Life-cycle/Repeat?
  • Neutral/Poor/Acceptable/Superior user satisfaction?
  • Low/Medium/High carbon savings?
  • Poor/Viable/Good cost benefit?

Light bulbs

Replacing light bulbs is one of three basic steps advocated by the Diocese’s Shrinking the Footprint campaign.

Although low energy lamps cost more, their lifetime is longer, which also reduces costs to access and replace.

LED lights (Light Emitting Diodes) are the new standard.

Renewable energy

This is also called ‘micro-generation’ or ‘Low and zero carbon technologies’.

To fill the energy gap and tackle climate change, renewable technologies, such as solar panels and heat pumps, should be introduced as widely as possible.

Increasingly it will become necessary to shift heating from gas to electrical systems. Churches are beginning to do this.

At present there continue to be cases where non-renewable energy appliances are the best option for the time being, eg high efficiency condensing boilers. These are designed for ease of maintenance – eg using modular systems. However they may survive without total replacement for at least two decades – in which case it should be borne in mind that early replacement may be required as the energy transition progresses.

Options for on-site renewable energy installation are outlined in the sections below.

Solar panels

Solar panels include photovoltaic (PV) systems to generate electricity, and solar thermal systems to generate heat, usually for hot water.

Solar PV is very suitable for many churches. Solar hot water is more beneficial for domestic properties.

Heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps are beneficial for new homes, and may be worth considering for smaller churches and many church halls.

Air source heat pumps may also be beneficial in some cases.

Heat pumps are nor strictly renewable energy, as they use some electricity, but they are relatively low on energy and carbon. A building needs to be well insulated for heat pumps to be efficient. Ground source heat pumps may be compromised if adjoining premises have similar systems.

St Paul’s Cathedral has a heat pump system serving its Chapter House.

Biomass boilers

This is the technical term for boilers that burn wood or other plant material (usually pellets, sometimes chips or logs).

This technology is almost carbon-neutral; though technically challenging, it may be worth considering for some churches.

Water conservation

Water should be used sparingly – while using enough to maintain good hygiene.

We do not know of any church that recycles water on site yet. However, several have been installing water butts in the churchyard.

‘Grey water’ systems are more appropriate for new housing. The new Parsonage of St John Wembley has a rainwater harvesting system.

Retrofitting

Anyone planning retrofitting projects to the fabric of a historic building such as most churches should employ suitably accredited professionals for works to traditional buildings.

Finance

Project finance may be sought from grants, the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, bank loans or in some cases loans from the Diocese and other schemes.

Running costs eg for solar panels may be subsidised through the Smart Export Guarantee.

Owners including churches may form cooperatives with each other, to share and potentially reduce costs.

Some parish trusts may also contribute.

Most Projects will be subject to VAT, though some may recover this through the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme.

Permissions

Works to a church will normally require a faculty.

Alterations to affecting the outside appearance of a building may often require planning permission. Contact your local authority.

Before embarking on any project, it is especially important to discuss with your Archdeacon.

Links

Head of Environment and Sustainability
Parish Property Support Team.

Energy and carbon, global warming and climate change
Climate Action Programme.

Sustainable building
Heating and energy use
Lighting and energy use
Generating your own energy
Solar panels
Heat pumps
Biomass heating
Conserving water.

Applying for a faculty.

Finance and VAT.

Resources on the environment.

Environment and Sustainability, front page.


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